PASS Convention Remarks

Former Acting FAA Administrator Polly Trottenberg (June 8, 2023 – October 2023)

Good Morning! It is such an honor to be here with you today at this exciting, challenging and pivotal time for FAA and the aviation industry. Since stepping in as Acting Administrator for this Agency, I have been deeply impressed by the dedication and hard work each and every one of you do daily to keep our skies safe.   
I want to start by thanking Dave Spero, Carlos Aguirre, and the entire PASS executive board for inviting me here today.  I have appreciated getting to know Dave over the last few months — between contract negotiations and the Administration’s efforts on in-person work, it has been a lively time!  It is evident that Dave is committed to you as members, and to the safety of the flying public.  
Oh, and he makes a mean YouTube video too! 
I also want to acknowledge so many of you who have served in our military.  Thank you for your service. 
I am the proud daughter of two WWII veterans.  My father wanted to be a pilot, but he was too short, so they put him in the nose of the plane as a bombadier navigator.  He flew 26 missions over Europe, including on D-Day.  My mother was a WAC and drove a truck in Washington, DC and later helped organize the clerical workers at Harvard.  They really were the greatest generation and I learned so much from the both. 
I also want to thank NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy for her inspiring remarks and for her partnership and dedication to making our industry the safest it can be. 
And I want to thank our leadership in ATO and AVS who are at the conference — Jeff Planty and Larry Fields.  We are all here in Pittsburgh to foster that strong collaboration between FAA and PASS, to share our thoughts, and, most importantly, to hear from all of you.  
Importance of your work  
The traveling public is not always aware of what you do, but the FAA leadership knows and values it.  I have been fortunate to be able to get out into the field and see your members’ work firsthand at airfields, towers, TRACONs and other facilities, including the amazing team effort at Oshkosh.   

It was inspiring to see the whole FAA team there, including ATO and AVS on the ground, processing record numbers of aircraft, providing support for aircraft incidents and accidents, and conducting outreach to the aviation community. 
As far as I can tell, outside of DoD, the FAA oversees the most complex 24/7 operational system in the entire Federal Government, responsible for the safety of millions of travelers and supporting an industry that accounts for 5 percent of GDP and over 2 million jobs.   
And it is no exaggeration to say, we could not do it without all of you.    
From Aviation Safety Inspectors in AVS to Maintenance Technicians in TechOps — you are the FAA’s miracle workers. For those of you who work in TechOps, you have the unique challenge of working with the oldest equipment in our system, as well as the most cutting edge technology — and everything in between.  
When I say old, I mean old: you all know this, radars that use 50-year-old technology. Buildings that are just as old, some older. Instrument Landing Systems that require you to be resourceful…tracking down replacement parts across the country or even building or printing parts yourselves when necessary. 

And while we need to maintain some of these old systems, we are counting on your members to bring new technology online, including the FAA Enterprise Network System (FENS). It is going to be a massive task to transition the new FENS system and we will be relying on your members to help make the effort a success. 
And that is all in addition to your life-saving work setting, overseeing, and enforcing safety standards for all aspects of the aviation industry—airlines, manufacturers, repair stations, advanced air mobility, and aviation professionals.  You all know what a huge and incredibly important job it is, not only for the US, but globally as well, as these programs directly impact every facet of domestic and international civil aviation safety. 
Your work will continue to evolve as we move into the future of aviation, specifically with advanced air mobility coming on line.  We are counting on you to be creative and innovative, as we know you are —while we work to integrate AAM vehicles safely into our system.     
We are also counting on you as the FAA seizes the opportunities — and tackles the challenges ahead — in these politically complex times.   
So thank you again for the work you do, we are grateful. 

This is why we have been committed to ensuring your current contract negotiations get finalized quickly.  When I came on board as Acting Administrator, it probably won’t surprise anyone in this group that Dave was one of the very first people I heard from wanting to make sure that the FAA/PASS contract negotiations were high on my list.     
I know that the negotiations take time, and Dave drives a hard bargain, I mean the guy is relentless!  But our respective teams have made great progress in recent weeks and I am hopeful we are close to a long-term AVS contract that will support PASS members and recognize your contributions to the agency.  And I look forward to continuing negotiations for ATO soon after.  

AOA Role & PASS Members as Mission Critical  
At the outset of becoming Acting Administrator, I set a handful of goals. The first of those goals was to have a safe and smooth summer for the traveling public. You have been critical to helping us with that safety focus by conducting certification and oversight, and keeping our equipment and technology in good working order.  
The second goal I set was to provide the resources you need to do your job. We are working on that with both the budget and appropriations process, as well as FAA reauthorization. I know that stable and predictable funding is absolutely crucial to the FAA’s mission. 
For the upcoming fiscal year, I am encouraged that the Senate’s proposed appropriations bill funds the President’s request for the FAA’s operations and facilities and equipment. We still have some work to do to get this across the finish line and in a good place.  It will be a key priority for the entire FAA and DOT leadership. 
And we are focusing on implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $5 billion program to modernize air traffic buildings and equipment as well as bring in new facilities and technology. This includes things like the tower replacement program that we established in partnership with PASS. And these dollars will also help us meet our sustainability goals for the next era of aviation.  
The last goal I set was to get you a confirmed administrator to provide stable, long-term leadership for the FAA.  I have no news on that front at the moment, but I am very hopeful that we will see a very qualified nominee soon. And I will do everything in my power to help with their confirmation and a smooth transition. 
Return to Office  
And as far as working together, I want to touch on something that I know has been top of mind for a lot of people and has caused a lot of concern – more in person work for those that are NOT in field or operational roles, as so many of your members are. 
I will admit that it has been a challenge — to put it mildly — at the FAA and at other Federal agencies to meet the Administration’s desire for more in-person work and collaboration while maintaining the flexibilities of telework as well.  
The FAA leadership does believe we must position the agency for a future that will have a greater volume of traffic and complexity in the NAS and meet the demands of our many stakeholders.  To do this we do believe we need to increase our in-office presence, again for non-operational and field staff.   
However, we need to do this collaboratively with our union partners and our management team and it is not a one-size fits all approach.  We appreciate your patience as we work closely with Dave and other union leaders to find better ways to engage and develop guidance in the near future.   
I know PASS members — our miracle workers — are in high demand in industry, but I also hope you get deep satisfaction out of ensuring the safety of the traveling public and national airspace system — some of the most critical work in the Federal Government.   
So on behalf of myself, Secretary Buttigieg and the entire FAA leadership team, let me express our gratitude to you and your members for that commitment to public service.  I personally think there is nothing more rewarding. 
Let me close by again thanking you for having me here today and I look forward to taking some questions.